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Regina Fez, Regina vs Contemporary Art Regina Fez, Regina vs Contemporary Art
photo Rafael Gavalle
THE POLITICS OF THEATRE ARE RARELY MOMENTOUS, YET THEY ARE ALWAYS OF THE MOMENT. REGINA VS CONTEMPORARY ART IS A TRANSPLANTED PERFORMANCE, FROM ANOTHER TIME AND PLACE. FIRST PERFORMED IN PORTUGAL IN 2007, THE PIECE IS STYLED AS A PRESS CONFERENCE OR DEBATE, AN ENTERTAINMENT OF TALKING HEADS. BUT IT IS ALSO A BODILY ENCOUNTER, A PHYSICAL CONFRONTATION OF IDEAS, SIZE AND SEXUAL POWER.

Paulo Castro, as “master provocateur Doctor Ribeiro” in hipster jeans and shoulder-length hair, is compact and dynamic. Towering over him is Regina Fez; an immensely tall yet shy, retiring drag queen, she wears a figure-hugging black satin dress, her blond locks coyly covering her face. We applaud their entrance. Castro dances a little for us. Leafing through a newspaper, he presents the news of the day—or yesterday. “It’s Sarah vs Condi”, shrieks a headline. But now it’s late November, post-election. A new politics awaits.

Castro is a theatre director and performer from Portugal, now based in Adelaide (RT88, p37). Regina Fez, from Spain, presents a mysterious figure, hailing from some European border zone between the high seriousness of performance art and the avant garde of underworld porn. In her signature piece—offered to us upstage on hazy video—she vomits goldfish in a car park. As they flip-flop on the concrete, I care about their fate—more, perhaps, than I should.

The subjects of Regina vs Contemporary Art are sex, art, war, activism and terrorism. These are subjects of great moment and passion. But here in Adelaide’s tiny Bakehouse Theatre, at the end of the month-long celebrations of Feast Festival, their passion has all but dissipated, their moment seems displaced.

The tone is confrontational, unreasonable and excessive. The audience is edgy and uncertain, reluctant to respond. There are open-ended offerings in this work, and something quite freewheeling about its form. Castro strips off his shirt and dances with self-erotic pleasure. Regina pulls a tub of Yoplait from her handbag and eats it with a spoon. Invitations are extended to partake.

There are some fellow travellers in the audience—directors, performers and other artists. One reads a passage from Pinter’s War, while another wins a kiss with Regina. A third offers, upon request, his “most bombastic” sentence: “My cock is a weapon of mass destruction.” But I don’t believe his ego. I prefer the soft-edged irony of Regina’s “Lick my Gaza Strip.”

In one fond moment towards the end, Castro and Regina dance in a ballroom embrace, having wrapped themselves in such sentence-signs which they gently shed as they rotate. The sweetness of the moment is sharpened by a pervasive current of sexual aggression. At other times, they argue and they fight. They take their violence offstage and bring it back again. But Regina seems to lack the energy or inclination to offer much in the way of fighting back.

This jangling, nervous elegy to the politics of elsewhere recalled for me the past rhetoric of futurist performance, its audience anxieties elusively translating the dislocation of European desires.


Regina vs Contemporary Art by Paulo Castro with texts by Pinter, Houellebecq, Pasolini with Regina Fez and Paulo Castro, presented by Feast Festival & Castro Stone Productions, Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide, Nov 25-29, 2008

RealTime issue #89 Feb-March 2009 pg. 36

© Jonathan Bollen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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